Monday, October 12, 2015

Scorpion Weed

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The Scorpion Weed of Lake Havasu
Taylor Cantrell BIO 100
The Scorpion Weed, Phacelia crenulata, is a purple flower that grows nearly every spring in western Arizona 1. This flower is able to survive in extreme temperatures, and can have a similar affect with poison oak and poison ivy 2 . Many people believe that the Scorpion Weed got its name because of the “sting” that it has on some people, but actually it is largely due to the fact that it is a top heavy flower, which causes it to curl over like a scorpion’s tail does. The flowers are smaller than an inch and are purple or blue in color and the leaves are green and hairy 3.

Habitat:
The Scorpion Weed is native to the Americas and is commonly found in desert regions of California, Arizona, and Nevada. It is commonly found in canyons, washes, and sandy or gravelly locations, which includes pretty much all of Lake Havasu City including yards and walking trails. In a very dry winter, it is likely that few if any Scorpion Weeds pop up in the spring.
Warning:
Many visitors do not know that this weed is poisonous and to them it just another pretty wild flower1. “The foliage can cause contact dermatitis and severe blistering in sensitive persons” (2). Phacelia can also cause poison oak-like rashes. Many people who come into contact with this plant do not realize that is poisonous since a rash does not develop immediately, leading it to be easily spread throughout the body4. Some people can come into contact with the Scorpion weed and have no reaction, but others may have a severe allergic reaction. Often times a person will not be the one to come into contact with the Scorpion Weed but their pet will. Pets can carry the fibers which contains geranylhydroquinone, the allergen that causes the rash5, and may transfer to a human while being pet or after laying on the furniture or bed.
 
Treatment:
The rash from the scorpion weed can last from a few days to over a week, and does not have a specific medicine, but Calamine lotion and Benadryl are common treatments for this rash. Aloe Vera lotion can lessen the pain and itchiness of this rash as well as help the healing process. Isolating the rash and frequently washing hands is a great way to prevent spreading the rash over more parts of the body. Since the allergen is easily transferred from shoes or animals, it is also important wash your shows and bathe your dog after a hike2.

15 comments:

  1. Use great care not to come in contact with this plant! I've been hiking in the desert for 40 years, and I never even heard of Scorpion Weed until last week, when I developed a very serious rash on my right hand after camping West of Palm Canyon in the Kofas. The itch is unbearable! The only thing that helps is lots of Benadryl, and washing your hands frequently in the coldest water available. Also, if you have the rash on your hands, be very careful not to touch any other part of your body. Whatever the irritant is, it spreads very easily. In my case, the rash is finally going away, after seven days of agony.

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  3. I’ve been hiking through Scorpion weed for the past 3 weeks and it never bothered me until yesterday. It started with a small patch on my legs and is now all the way up the front and back of both legs. (I probably spread it while I itched). I only slept an hour and a half last night! I went to the doctor today and he thought it was an allergy or scabies. I knew it had to be something I came into contact with and then I ran into an article about Scorpion Weed. I am 100% sure this is what I have. I’m sorry to hear it took 7 days to get better. I’m on the last few days of a vacation. I think my husband thought I was being dramatic, but I’m glad to hear that you agree that “the itch is unbearable.”

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  4. I have just had the same experience. It started with just a few scrapes on the front of my legs and now it’s absolutely covering them. I’m on day nine of the rash and every morning there’s more. I didn’t think it was possible to itch this much! My dr gave me a strong steroid cream that does not seem to help. And an oral steroid to possibly start in the next few days. I’m 20 weeks pregnant so that complicates things. I would love to hear that yours finally went away if you don’t mind sharing an update.

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  5. I had a severe reaction to this plant but it happened when the plant was already dead, making identification tougher. For me the reaction was much worst than Poison Ivy or Oak and took expensive prescription lotion to cure. Poison Ivy treatments didn't work. From the moment I touched the plant till it was cured it itched incessantly and even woke me many times scratching in my sleep, 3 weeks.

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  6. I got a bit two weekends ago, which went away after a few days, and then got in to it again and this time it is much worse and after a week the itching is still spreading to new body parts by the day. The original contact site on my foot doesn't much itch any more but is covered with welts that are now bright red, while my hands were at their worst several days ago and now my forearms itch and the rash has spread above my elbows.

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  7. Sleepless nights. Shows up a couple days after contact. Major itch.

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  8. UPDATE - Three weeks and two doctor visits later, the itching has finally stopped. It was one of the worst things I've ever experienced. The over the counter anti-itch creams did not work for me. At the first doctor visit I got a steroid shot that made no difference at all. I applied aloe gel about every 30 min, took Benedryl and put ice packs on my legs and feet. At night I couldn't have more than a sheet on my legs and had to get up to reapply aloe and take more Benedryl in the middle of the night for 2 weeks. Once I got home from my trip, I went to my primary care physician and she prescribed Prednisone and an antibiotic. Those two drugs plus the aloe seemed to do the trick in another week. I don't know if I'm especially sensitive to Scorpion Weed or if it is that I waded through it everyday for 10 days before the rash broke out. I think the pollen that came out as the flower died is what really did it. The yellow pollen was kind of sticky and stuck to my capris, legs and boots (I was exposed to the pollen 3 days before the rash broke out). Anyway, I hope this might help others that are exposed. It is definitely a serious rash for those that are sensitive to it.

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  9. Scorpion weed got me too. I picked a few of the purple flowers to try and figure out what plant was smelling like BO and onions. Had 3 weeks of a horrible rash, worse than poison ivy. Was hiking off trail North of Florence, AZ in shorts. 20+ years experience in the desert and I never knew this existed. Look out if you're allergic to poison ivy, etc. Yikes!

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  10. Have had the rash for 2 weeks! Using AFTER BITE on the effected areas with good results for the itching. But still have areas of rash on feet and lower legs.

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  11. There is a bar laundry soap use in the shower to nuetralize the oil

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  12. Stuff is nasty. From experience it was like the rash of chicken pox with the burning of poison sumac. 2 weeks like most said. The oils will transfer to clothing and person to person. Plant mocks the lavender in order to get pollinated. Note the difference being the pretty yellow stymen on the weeds flower cups and it has Christmas shaped leaves as opposed to the lavenders Easter shaped. Found witch hazel to be the most effective in treating the itch and getting rid of the rash.

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  13. Shhooowweeee, let me tell you! Now I'm a east coaster and I've seen some crazy s**t go down out here. And I have wallowerd around and play into ivy when younger. Well as I aged it was more aggressive in attack...but I was not ready for the scorpion. No no no! Let go camping in the CA heat. Well that wasn't so bad but 2 to 3 days later the rashy bumps and uncontrollable itching. And the more you itch it spreads more and more. No I have my best little fur buddy and he is just to good of a boy to blame...but dammit dog if you have this to me I'm cutting off your... too late for that one. No it was me working and playing in the bush of summer heat and caught the bite of the scorpion(was with my chic, so it weren't the scabies like the one above!!!)(a bus seat, right)anyhoo. Scrub till you bleed. Wash down in rubbing alcohol and that will buy you a hour or so. Don't sweat if you can help it. I did find the "after bite to work some as well. But once it's to its full stage. Scratch them till the all bleed the run a bath with 1 to 2 cups bleach. Sit as long as you can take it and scrub whilst in. I found this to burn like a "mutha" but would help in itching and give you some ease for a bit whilst controlling the spread better. Hmmmm scorpion weed...who'd of thought

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